Exploring South America:
Peru on my plate
Morsels that tantalised my tastebuds.
As eaten by Chris
I’m no food critic, and I’d strongly question any credentials as a “connoisseur”, however in Peru, I’ve eaten a lot.
Most of it tasty, some of it amazing.
I know what I’ve found interesting, different, and to put it simply, I know what I’ve enjoyed.
Given the time I’ve spent there, I thought it might be nice to share some of those experiences, from the surprising to the cliched.
“Peruvian food is so simple yet amazingly flavoured with their traditional spices”
– L’Wren Scott
From a “foodies” perspective, Peru has been on an upward trajectory for probably fifteen to twenty years now.
I don’t just refer to street cred, like travel bloggers who list “The 10 things you MUST eat in Peru” when the reality is, they only tried 1o things (some were good, some were average putting it politely).
Others refer to its cuisine as “The next big thing in food and drink” when in reality, its fare is already a BIG DEAL on the global stage.
Indeed, ever since the World Travel Awards have had a “World’s Leading Culinary Destination” category (that’s since 2012), only in 2020 (that Covid affected year of global turmoil), has Peru not been their winner (that year the prize went to Italy, so no real complaints from here anyway)!
Cuy (pronounced ‘Coy’ like some shy young lady) is for any carnivore, one of those MUST try dishes.
For some, the thought of tucking into what is often considered a family pet of course is a bit cringe, or even tear inducing, but for the Incan peoples, they were a staple form of protein and bred for that very reason!
This is the Peruvian Guinea Pig, and before you immediately turn your nose up, I’d ask you to put your squeamishness aside, as this, cooked well, is one delicious critter!
“The flavour? A delicious cliché sounding, similar to chicken. The texture? Similar to a crisy skin duck or the best pork crackle!”
We found ourselves a nice looking venue, just off Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.
That’s the main square and I only mention it, as appropriately, any Inca Trail/Machu Picchu trip will likely see you spending some time in this gorgeous city and if you’re lucky (or game), you’ll find the same place we did!
It’s a city home to a few craft breweries as well, so there’s always something nice and local to wash it down with!
Okay, so I may have mentioned some things are cliched, but let’s not forget corny too!
Not as corny as Helado Elote (Mexican Sweet Corn Icecream), or as delicious for that matter, but the stunning city of Arequipa delivered us Helado Queso (Cheese Icecream), and to be fair, it was actually pretty tasty!
At face value, it may sound odd, yet if you consider how the tang of cream cheese makes possibly the best cake frosting on the planet (I’m looking at you Carrot and Banana Cakes), then it’s far less of a stretch!
Do not be scared, definitely give this one a go.
I’m a sucker for the stupid (if you hadn’t already noted).
Thrilled to see a Chihuahua in Chihuahua, I drank Tequila in Tequila, and were it legal and I could have found any, would have likely drank Shiraz in Shiraz (oddly enough, I never did have a Cornish Pasty in Cornwall)…
So it shall come as little surprise, that I made sure to have a Pisco Sour in Pisco!
Apparently invented by an American in Lima back in the 1920’s, it is widely consumed in both Peru, and neighbouring Chile.
There’s even more reason to have a tipple of this famous drink in Pisco itself.
The city was one of the most affected by the 2007 Peru Earthquake which measured 8.0.
Much of the city bears the scars, or still lies in ruin, and many people still live in the temporary housing the relocated to over 15 years ago, so any contribution one can make to the local economy is most welcome.
As for the drink itself, its addition of egg white, rather than sully the experience, provides a delicious foam to the sour and bitter drink… almost like a soda float (or Spider as I’d call it myself).
What’s so special about a Chicken Sandwich?
A valid question indeed.
Latin America isn’t generally blessed with the same approach to the sandwich to which I experience back home in Australia.
Often the pan (bread) is heavily sweetened or processed, or the quality of fillings less than ideal…
But in the city of Trujillo, this one is a little different.
I’d love to be able to say that some local we befriended gave me the ‘hot mail’ on this hidden gem, but rather, it was the sometimes hit and miss travel guide, Lonely Planet that led us to the Jugeria San Augustin (in the years since, they’ve even created their own website).
Their Sandwich de Pollo (shredded chicken on French bread with crispy celery and onion) is a true joy to the taste buds, and the perfect fuel for exploring the nearby ruins (hours north of Lima, Trujillo is a great base from which to explore the ruins of Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna).
Now there’s a city the hugs the Amazon river in the north of Peru, Iquitos.
Famous as the largest city in the world (home to over 400,00 people), inaccessible by road.
It feels remote, it feels like a frontier town, and it’s where you’ll find my favourite dish in Peru (well technically, there are a few other places, but it is a dish from the Jungles of Peru and Colombia).
As a bit of a preamble, my far better half Sarah first sampled this almost a decade prior to our shared visit, and having heard of it for so long, my expectations were high, and she quite worried that I’d not actually like it.
“They suddenly returned from the kitchen with a Vegemite Sandwich!”
Apparently a name tracing from the Quechua word pataray meaning to fold or wrap, it’s a meal of freshwater fish wrapped and cooked in leaves.
It’s widely available across the city, but our venue de jour (actually, our eatery of choice for the dish across several days) was The Yellow Rose of Texas.
Their take on this classic, was river fish, steamed in a leaf along with garlic, onion, tomato and coriander (cilantro).
Sounds simple, but it remains my favourite dish of anything ever eaten in Peru!
As an amusing aside, when Sarah first visited all those years ago, through conversation, they discovered that both she and her mum were Australian.
They suddenly returned from the kitchen with a Vegemite Sandwich!
I hope this little piece of indulgent writing can inspire you to see more and taste everything!